College knowledge how to get students ready to succeed
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College Knowledge: How to Get Students Ready to Succeed. David T. Conley, Ph.D. CEO, Educational Policy Improvement Center Professor, University of Oregon Director, Center for Educational Policy Research Presented at: The Importance of College Readiness in Today’s Economic Environment:

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College Knowledge: How to Get Students Ready to Succeed

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College knowledge how to get students ready to succeed

College Knowledge: How to Get Students Ready to Succeed

David T. Conley, Ph.D.

CEO, Educational Policy Improvement Center

Professor, University of Oregon

Director, Center for Educational Policy Research

Presented at:

The Importance of College Readiness in Today’s Economic Environment:

What Policymakers Need to Know

Sacramento, CA, January 28, 2009

Key characteristics of us college prep system

Key Characteristics of US College Prep System

  • Dependent on access to

    • designated courses (college prep curriculum)

    • privileged knowledge (how the system actually works)

    • specialized supports (help with application and financial aid process)

  • Also dependent on

    • significant student self-reliance, motivation, perseverance

    • family and community support

    • ability to make a successful transition to a new “culture”: the environment of postsecondary education with new roles, rules, and expectations

  • In short, we do not make it easy for students to get ready for college

High school diploma or college readiness

High School Diploma or College Readiness?

  • State K-12 education policy has tended to focus on increasing the high school graduation rate as one significant measure of “closing the achievement gap”

  • Unfortunately, a high school diploma does not prepare its recipients for any specific future

    • Jobs requiring a high school diploma do not require the skills we would like to believe a high school graduate should have

  • In the current economic environment, a high school diploma as a terminal degree presents a false sense of hope and accomplishment to its recipients

  • State education policy should focus on preparing all students for readiness to learn beyond high school

    • This is a higher bar than today’s high school diploma

Will things ever again be the way they were

Will Things Ever Again Be the Way They Were?

“Up until the '70s, you could come to the city without education, without speaking English, and get a job in the auto industry and instantly be in the middle class, economically speaking,” said Mike Stewart, director of Wayne State's Walter P. Reuther Library and an expert on the auto industry. “A lot of folks in the city depended on these jobs for generations — they don't exist anymore,” he said. “A lot of Detroiters are unprepared, educationally and technologically, to cope.”

DAVID CRARY and COREY WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writers, December 2008

Why is it important for more students to be college and career ready

Why Is It Important for More Students to Be College and Career Ready?

  • Two-thirds of high school grads go directly to college, three-quarters within five years of graduation

    • The numbers are forecast to continue to increase

  • Large numbers end up in remedial courses or fail to persist beyond the first year

    • From 20% to 80%, depending on the institution type, end up in remediation

    • First-generation college attendees comprise a disproportionate number of remedial placements and non-persisters

  • The proportion of first-generation college attendees will continue to increase as far into the future as we can project

    • These students need a different kind of college preparation

    • They need access to “privileged knowledge”

    • They need more confidence that they are ready

A new definition of college ready

A New Definition of College-Ready

  • The level of preparation a student needs in order to enroll and succeed—without remediation—in credit-bearing general education coursesthat meet requirements for a baccalaureate degree

  • “Succeed”is defined as completing entry-level courses at a level of understanding and proficiency sufficient to:

    • pass a subsequent course in the subject area

    • apply course knowledge to another subject area

  • This definition presents high schools with a clear target for preparation: expectations students will encounter in first-year college courses, including students pursuing technical certificates

Four key dimensions of college readiness

Four Key Dimensions of College Readiness

  • Key Cognitive Strategies

    • Analytic reasoning, problem solving, inquisitiveness, precision, interpretation, evaluating claims

  • Key Content Knowledge

    • Writing skills, algebraic concepts, key foundational content and “big ideas” from core subjects

  • Academic Behaviors (self-management)

    • Persistence, time management, study group use, awareness of performance

  • Contextual Skills and Awareness (“college knowledge”)

    • Admissions requirements, cost of college, purpose of college, types of colleges, college culture, relations with professors

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The four key dimensions of college readiness

The Four Key Dimensions of College Readiness

Highlights of epic research on college readiness

Highlights of EPIC Research on College Readiness

  • Major recent studies on college readiness conducted by the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC)

    • College Board College Curriculum Studies

      • Best practices entry-level college courses in 7 subject areas per year

    • AP Course Audit

      • Analysis of course syllabi from all AP courses (150,000 courses)

    • Gates-funded study of 38 high schools

      • These schools outperformed expectations for preparing students for college

    • Texas Course Validation Study

      • 930 entry-level courses from 98 institutions

Gates study schools

Gates Study Schools

Example performances of college ready students

Example Performances of College-ready Students

  • Write a 3-5 page research paper that is structured around a cogent, coherent line of reasoning

  • Read with understanding a range of non-fiction publications, textbooks, and technical materials

  • Produce written products that are consistently free of grammatical and spelling errors and that reflect proper writing conventions

  • Employ fundamentals of algebra fluently to solve multi-step and non-routine problems

  • Collect and analyze data precisely and accurately

  • Interpret conflicting explanations of an event or phenomenon

  • Evaluate the credibility of sources


Example performances of college ready students1

Example Performances of College-ready Students

  • Punctually attend a study group outside of class

  • Create and maintain a personal schedule that includes a to-do list with prioritized tasks and appointments

  • Complete successfully a problem or assignment that requires about two weeks of independent work and extensive research

  • Utilize key technological tools including appropriate online and desktop applications

  • Locate websites containing information on colleges, the admissions process, and financial aid

  • Present an accurate self-assessment of readiness for college


Lessons learned from this research

Lessons Learned from This Research

  • Few high school students are fully ready in all four dimensions of college readiness

  • Readiness requires the development of strategies that must be practiced and honed throughout high school

  • Students should be challenged cognitively even if they are still developing their literacy and language skills

  • Student support programs are necessary but are not sufficient because they deal with students after the fact

  • High schools and colleges need to communicate directly to develop more local programs that align and aid student transitions

  • States need to provide a policy framework that ensures greater alignment takes place

  • High schools and colleges can take many small steps while states are working on larger policy frameworks

Key principles of college readiness

Key Principles of College Readiness

  • Principle 1: Create and maintain a college-going culture in the school

  • Principle 2: Create a core academic program that is aligned with and leads to college readiness by the end of 12th grade

  • Principle 3: Teach key self-management skills, require students to use them, and provide students with feedback on how well they are developing these skills

  • Principle 4: Make college real by preparing students for the complexity of applying to college and enrolling in an entry-level course

  • Principle 5: Create assignments and grading policies in high school that more closely approximate college expectations as students progress

  • Principle 6: Make the senior year meaningful and challenging

  • Principle 7: Build partnerships with and connections to postsecondary programs and institutions

Ongoing epic efforts to improve readiness

Ongoing EPIC Efforts to Improve Readiness

  • Texas

    • College readiness standards

    • Validation of college readiness standards against content of entry-level courses

    • Reference courses that specify content and expectations of entry-level college courses

    • Analysis of Career/Technical Education courses in relation to college readiness standards

    • Demonstration high schools that show how to make more students ready for college

    • Regional meetings to connect high school and college faculty and administrators to plan for better alignment

    • Teacher education redesign so that the next generation of teachers prepares more students to be fully college-ready

Ongoing epic efforts to improve readiness1

Ongoing EPIC Efforts to Improve Readiness

  • College Board

    • AP Course Audit to ensure that all AP courses align with Curricular Requirements for the subject

    • College Curriculum Study to identify best practices entry-level college courses to inform redesign of AP courses

    • College Readiness Schools that undertake wholesale changes to align their program of study with college readiness

  • Gates/Carnegie Foundations

    • College Ready Performance Assessment System

    • College Ready School Diagnostic

  • Other States

    • South Carolina: Paired courses between high school and college

    • Massachusetts: Regional meetings with high schools and colleges

    • Maine: Analysis of all high school courses against state standards

Unique needs of first generation college attendees

Unique Needs of First-Generation College Attendees

  • These students need more scaffolding and support for their transition to college

  • They are not as prepared to make choices in high school and upon entry to college that help them succeed

  • They may not have been fully challenged in high school and are therefore less aware of their full capabilities and their current strengths and areas in need of improvement

  • They are less confident and therefore more vulnerable to self-perception that they do not belong in college

  • They need clear, structured pathways and supports that help them to succeed

    • Progress monitoring, tutoring tied to courses, skill labs in key academic areas, carefully designed induction courses, help developing study skills and strategies, mentors and peer supports

Unique needs of english language learners

Unique Needs of English Language Learners

  • This is a complex category that includes a wide range of proficiency levels and types of language mastery

    • No one set of strategies works for all such students

  • In general, students whose reading fluency is emerging need very focused instruction on academic English; how to read and study textbooks, key vocabulary; how to access resources and supports

    • ELL instruction often focuses on general language development rather than these types of skills

    • Many native English speakers need help in these areas as well

  • There are ways to reduce the language load in a lesson and still convey cognitively complex material

    • Transition courses can emphasize key cognitive strategy development in tandem with English language skill acquisition

The bottom line

The Bottom Line

  • College readiness is complex and multi-dimensional

  • This makes it more difficult for groups without access to privileged knowledge to compete equally and equitably

  • High schools with large proportions of students who will be first in their family to attend college have a particularly strong obligation to provide access to privileged knowledge through a systematic, structured program of preparation

  • States can provide a better policy framework that makes the transition from high school to college more transparent and simpler

  • High schools can align their programs better with colleges, beginning with local postsecondary institutions

  • More high school students can benefit from being offered access to college-like experiences (dual enrollment, AP, campus visitations, college mentors) to make college more real to them

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